Stabilization work begins on Sperry Chalet

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  • Engineers inspect the Sperry Chalet dormitory building in Glacier Park earlier this week to provide stabilization recommendations. (NPS Photo)

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    Engineers inspect the Sperry Chalet at Glacier Park. The chalet was gutted by the Sprague Fire on Aug. 31.

  • Engineers inspect the Sperry Chalet dormitory building in Glacier Park earlier this week to provide stabilization recommendations. (NPS Photo)

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    Engineers inspect the Sperry Chalet at Glacier Park. The chalet was gutted by the Sprague Fire on Aug. 31.

Engineers and Glacier Park restoration staff flew into Sperry Chalet earlier this week to see how best to stabilize the structure through the winter months.

An emergency fund of up to $90,000 has been established for the effort by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The Conservancy hired DCI + BCE Engineers of Kalispell, the same firm that consulted on repairs to the chalet after it was damaged by an avalanche in 2011, to advise the park on an emergency stabilization plan for the damaged dormitory building prior to winter and to purchase the necessary supplies for that work.

Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley said Friday the work will be done by crews under Jack Polzin. Polzin has worked at Glacier National Park decades, and has been in charge of preserving historic structures since 1994, when he was chosen to oversee the restoration of the park’s chalets. Since then he has overseen rehabilitation of more than 40 buildings in the park.

Preliminary indications that the stone walls of the chalet, which was gutted by the Sprague Fire the evening of Aug. 31, are worthy of stabilization, Alley said.

But the work will likely have to come quickly. Winter can come in a hurry to Glacier’s high country. The National Weather Service is already calling for a cold, wet, week in Glacier’s high country starting on Monday.

The Sperry Action Fund established by the Glacier Conservancy will help cover the cost of current and future grants for projects specifically related to work at the chalet. The Conservancy is accepting donations to that fund effective immediately online at glacier.org.

“Rebuilding Sperry is one of my top priorities, today’s announcement is the first step in that process,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “I’m grateful to the Conservancy and the Park for their quick work to preserve and rebuild Sperry.”

Earlier this week, Secretary Zinke ordered an independent investigation into the disaster and expedited the inspection of the remaining structure.

The dormitory, where people sleep the night at the complex, was the only building destroyed by the fire. The iconic dining hall caught on fire, but the structure was saved by firefighters.

Both Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines have also expressed support for rebuilding the chalet. Tester said earlier this week there’s a possibility of getting some fire relief funds for Montana into an emergency relief bill for hurricanes Irma and Harvey in the coming weeks.

Glacier Superintendent Jeff Mow said he was grateful for the support.

“While it is too soon to know what the future holds for Sperry, the outpouring of support from our local community and visitors from around the world has been remarkable,” Mow said.

“This work represents the first step in assessing the extent of the damage to evaluate what future actions might be possible.”

“Since the fire, literally hundreds of people have responded to our call for aid by adding their names to our list of those interested in supporting future work at the chalet,” said Conservancy Executive Director Doug Mitchell. “We now have a way for them and others in the Glacier community to actively participate and fund these important first steps following the fire.”

Donations can be made online at glacier.org or mailed to the Glacier National Park Conservancy, P.O. Box 2749, Columbia Falls, MT, 59912.

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